If you know someone with aphasia – or perhaps if you have aphasia, you’ve probably noticed that words don’t always come out as planned. Someone might mean to say the word “desk” but instead say “chair” or “tesk” or even a nonsense word like “joom.”
It can help to know some common errors for people with aphasia.
Saying one word in place of another
Example: saying “hammer” for “flashlight”
Saying something that sounds similar to the intended word
Example: saying “knike” for “knife”
Using an invented word or a non-real word
Example: saying “fibble” for “horse”
When a person has difficulty thinking of the word, so they describe it instead
Example: “it’s a thing that flies up in the air on a string… you know, it’s a toy” for “kite”
Getting stuck on a previous word after attempting to move on
Example: A person correctly names “socks,” but the next item is a coat, and they say “socks” again
When a person has difficulty saying a word and repeatedly attempts to self-correct
Example: “frigalator, frigigator, frigaliterlater, refrigetator” for “refrigerator”
These are all common errors for people with aphasia. If you know someone who has had a stroke or brain tumor that affects their language, you may have noticed some of these speech problems. You may have also read some of these words in a speech therapy evaluation or progress report.
There are also other “tricky concepts.” This is a generalization,
but many people with aphasia have problems with the following categories:
- Opposites (yes/no, right/left, up/down)
- Body parts
- Family relationships
Of note, these “tricky concepts” are often some of the very last language problems to resolve. Even very high level people with aphasia will commonly have difficulty saying or listening to dates and times, or may accidentally say “he” when they mean “she.”
As a conversation partner, it can help to be aware of these patterns, because you might offer extra support (ex: visual aids) when dealing with any of these tricky concepts. You can use calendars, pictures of family members, write key words, or draw pictures. It can also help to confirm what was said to double check that the right word came out.
Remember, speech errors can be very frustrating for people with aphasia. Be patient and give them time!